Apologies for missing this excellent August 29 article in The New York Times: Leadership and Calm Are Urged in Ebola Outbreak. Excerpt:
With the SARS outbreak in 2003, Taiwan’s news media was so alarmist that the government finally ordered every television channel to devote two minutes, three times a day, to a calm presentation of facts by Dr. Lee Ming-liang, a retired health minister in charge of the task force dealing with the disease.
“Dr. Lee is nice, old, intellectual — very respected,” said Dr. Steve Kuo, who coordinated Taiwan’s SARS task force. “And he speaks an authentic Taiwanese dialect. Whatever channel you turned to, there he was. That was very useful.”
Unusual tactics and inventive thinking will be needed to beat West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, according to some of the world’s top experts in disease eradication. About 3,000 Africans have been infected and about half of those have died. The World Health Organization has warned that infections could rise to 20,000, and Senegal on Friday announced its first case, a Guinean who entered a hospital in the capital, Dakar, seeking treatment.
Leadership must be imposed, the experts said, perhaps with a West African in charge. Donors must commit at least $500 million. And a new strategy is needed, with the first priority being to stop the panic caused by imprisoning residents of the affected countries behind barbed wire and roadblocks.
The outbreak will not end, they argued, until average citizens calm down and help their infected neighbors instead of fleeing from them.
“Liberians are not going to be saved by internationals coming in,” said Dr. Bruce Aylward, one of the leaders of the drive to eliminate polio and an author of the health organization’s Ebola-fighting plan introduced this week. “They’re going to be saved by Liberians.”
The New York Times asked 10 leaders of the fights against smallpox, polio, SARS, rinderpest, Guinea worm and other diseases — some of them legends in their fields — for their views on how best to fight the outbreak.
All offered suggestions, but several asked not to be quoted by name for fear of appearing to undercut W.H.O. and United Nations leadership.
Most agreed on many basic principles. All, for example, were sure the outbreak could be stopped without experimental drugs or vaccines. None expected it to take less than six months.
All said that Western countries needed to help generously, especially those with long ties to affected nations: the United States to Liberia, Britain to Sierra Leone and France to Guinea. Their militaries may be useful, as long as they only deliver supplies, set up field hospitals, provide electricity and communications — and avoid anything that involves brandishing weapons, including enforcing quarantines.
The experts were universally appalled at the sight of rural areas hemmed by roadblocks and a slum in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, with barbed wire that made residents believe they were being locked in to die; they were even more appalled that soldiers used truncheons and bullets during what was supposed to be a public health effort. On Friday, the government said the quarantine of the slum, West Point, would be lifted on Saturday morning.